When our students walk into our classrooms, they bring their whole selves, whether we’re ready for it or not, whether we want it or not. This means we are teaching the whole child whether we mean to or not.
We might be trying to appeal to the intellectual side of our students but the emotional side is still present, still listening, and still being guided by its own script.
When we ignore these other pieces of a child’s reality, it is to the detriment of their education and our classroom community. An article in the Huffington Post last month highlighted the impact that empathy can have on student behavior and suspensions. I was dismayed to read in the comments that showing empathy cost some teachers their jobs; they were expected to be tough on students who were acting out instead of showing them kindness and understanding.
But as the research, the stories of these teachers, and my own experience indicates, it is precisely this human connection that can engage a checked-out student and transform a classroom into a learning community.